Editor’s Note — This is the first in a five-part series showcasing each of the five Highland County public school districts from a teacher’s perspective as they kick off another school year.
Cassie Hutchinson is entering her 21st year of teaching and 19 of those years have been at McClain High School. Brady Streitenberger has been a teacher for eight years and this is his third year at McClain.
Both are professionals in language arts, with Hutchinson teaching high school and eighth grade Spanish, while both teach freshman English. Though they come from different backgrounds, both got into teaching because of a common love — they enjoy working with young people, especially high school age.
“I look forward to seeing the growth in my students and I love seeing their successes when they graduate and become adults,” Hutchinson said.
It’s a feeling mirrored by Streitenberger. “It’s great working with kids,” he added, “and one thing I try to do is make learning enjoyable.”
At this point in his career, he says it’s rewarding seeing students that have been in his classroom getting married, having children of their own, furthering their education and living life.
Life in the classroom is vastly different from Hutchinson’s perspective.
Growing up in Greenfield and graduating from McClain High School in 1992, she says technology has changed the face of education.
“In my senior year we got our first computer for word processing,” she remembered. “I took typing in high school and now, technology has changed the look and feel of my classroom drastically.”
“A good teacher uses technology as a tool,” Streitenberger said. “We used to use blackboards when I was in school and today, it’s a computer hooked up to an overhead LCD projector.”
Combine technology in use at school with the smartphone almost every student has, and they have the world at their fingertips. But sometimes the student has to teach the teacher.
“The good thing about kids and technology,” Hutchinson laughed, “is sometimes they have to show me how to do something, and they’ve been using these devices since before kindergarten.”
It isn’t all just facts and figures and teaching technique; it’s caring about and building relationships with those entrusted to your care in the classroom.
“You definitely see a wide range of issues when it comes to high school students,” Hutchinson said. “Esteem issues play a big role in the life of the girls, but also for the boys as well.”
Streitenberger said today’s society puts pressures on young people that weren’t faced even 10 years ago.
“A lot of students have problems at home and are looking for a role model,” he said. “Students are always facing challenges regardless of the times they live in, but things just happen so much faster today.”
Both teachers agreed that students today live with the expectation that they should know what they want to do in their life the minute they graduate.
“It just doesn’t work that way,” Hutchinson said.
Parental involvement is paramount in student and teacher success. Hutchinson recommended that more parents get involved in their children’s education.
“Take time to talk with your kids and find out what’s going on at school,” she said. “Check on their grades, deal with any problems, and if necessary, talk with the teachers and let us know what’s going on at home.”
“I think the biggest thing is taking the time to listen,” Streitenberger said. “Find ways to work with the teachers. We have the exact same goal as the parents and that’s the success of the student.”
The teachers spoke of an emphasis encouraged at McClain High School called “the three E’s.”
“You’re going to graduate from here, and you’ll either enroll, enlist or be employed,” Streitenberger said.
In other words, when a student earns their diploma, they’ll either be enrolled in a school of higher learning, enlist in the military or enter the world of work.
“And we want to open up those avenues for our students,” Hutchinson said.
Ultimately, how well a student does in school depends on the person they see looking back at them in the mirror in the morning.
Streitenberger remembered what the teacher he considers his mentor said every day at the conclusion of the morning announcements at Washington Senior High School — “Make it great day or not. The choice is your’s.”
Tim Colliver can be reached at [email protected]